| Shilpa Shetty
Mumbai, May 20: Shilpa Shetty’s family has stayed out of bounds since Surat police yesterday released tapes in which threats have been made on behalf of the actress to the owner of Prafful Sarees to pay Rs 2 crore or face “appropriate action” by a Malaysia-based underworld don.
Speaking for the Shettys, lawyer H.H. Nagi said: “People have sat in judgement. The Shettys did have talks with the owners of Prafful Sarees but it was regarding a legal notice asking them to pay their dues to Shilpa for an ad spot she did for them in 1997. They (Prafful Sarees) owe them money.”
Nagi emphasised: “The Shettys have not approached anyone from the underworld, nor do they know anyone.’’
Repeating a line Sunjay Dutt and those featuring in an alleged conversation with Chhota Shakeel have used ad infinitum in court, he said: “The tape can be tampered with, it can be manufactured and it can be fabricated.”
The allegations against the Shettys would be difficult to prove in court, Nagi said.
Police teams have “spoken” to Shamita, Shilpa’s younger sister, and arrest warrant has been issued against Surendra, the actress’ father. Surendra has obtained anticipatory bail till May 28. Mother Sunanda, who has also been charged, is travelling with Shilpa.
Surat police, with whom Prafful Sarees owner Pankaj Agarwal lodged an FIR claiming that Surendra was trying to “extort” money from him, will question Shilpa when she returns from Cannes.
Agarwal has said he not only cleared all the dues with the Shettys, but paid them Rs 3 lakh later through Dinesh Shetty, a henchman of the Malaysia-based Fazal-ur Rehman.
The police, too, maintained that Dinesh had received Rs 3 lakh from Agarwal as part of the “compromise deal”. The gangster, who received the money through an “angadiya (local courier)”, took Rs 50,000 and passed on the rest to Uday Shetty, another goon employed by Rehman.
Police sources said Surendra had agreed to pay Rs 25 lakh to Rehman as fees for extorting Rs 2 crore from Agarwal. Things went wrong when Dinesh, caught last Tuesday by Mumbai police in a different case, spilled the beans about the Shetty episode. Dinesh not only confessed to his role in the case, but let out that the gang had threatened a businessmen in Mahim to pay up Rs 1.5 crore.
Policemen investigating the case in Surat said they recorded the conversations between Agarwal and Surendra and between Agarwal and the gangsters after the sari-maker told them about the first threat call on March 24.
Though Rehman, known in crime circles as Fazlu and Chiang Chang, has come up in a high profile case for the first time, he is not a newcomer. The gangster, now in Malaysia, is taking advantage of the crackdown by Mumbai police on the Dawood Ibrahim, Chhota Shakeel, Abu Salem and the Chhota Rajan gangs.
A series of encounters involving some of gangland’s top contract killers and the extradition of their bosses from Dubai has left a niche that smaller players like Rehman have filled.
A red-corner notice from Interpol against Rehman has been in force from October 30, 2000, after a non-bailable warrant was issued against him in a case of kidnapping.
A crime branch officer said Rehman worked with the Uttar Pradesh-based Babloo Srivastava gang before winging out on his own. The 35-year-old gangster has reportedly targeted some big industrialists in Delhi and Lucknow before this.
Rehman, who has 15 cases against his name in Delhi alone, was arrested in the capital in July 1997. He fled to Dubai after his release from Tihar jail.